Vaada kar gaye the woh paanchve din ka
Kisi se sun liya hoga ke zindagi chaar dino ki hain
This beautiful two-liner was my ibteda (the beginning) into discovering the beautiful world of Urdu sher-o-shairi and the Urdu language. Even though this couplet is not purely in Urdu, it led me to read Urdu poems and listen to ghazals and focus on the Urdu words in the mesmerizing shers. To me, the beauty of this language and of the ‘sher’ as a form of poetry is that it encapsulates such powerful and complicated thoughts in a simple, mostly rhyming two line sentence. And that’s what keeps me hooked.
Growing up, my mother was my initiator into Urdu. She brought Jagjit Singh, Ghulam Ali, Abida Parveen, Noor Jehan and Mehdi Hassan and their Urdu ghazals into our home. At first, my reaction was like anybody who hasn’t experienced this world before. I found these ghazals depressing, the words alien, and the music too slow for my liking. It was much later, when I started understanding some of the words and the meanings they created when put together, that I realized that the nuances of the Urdu zabaan could weave together some beautiful expressions and ideas, which I had not experienced with English or Hindi (the other two languages I know) before. Take for example, the expression of ‘desire’, has atleast seven expressions in Urdu, each with a slightly different sentiment. Khwaahish, Tamanna, Justuju, Arzoo, chah, armaan, hasrat.
Urdu was a prominent language for the generation of pre-independence India. The generation of my great grandparents, I am told, wrote letters and conversed in Urdu as fluently as Punjabi or Hindi. Since then, the language seems to have faced a generation loss and has been relegated to an entertainment or art form. My 80 year old Uncle, a remnant of that generation, who recently translate Diwaan-e-Ghalib from Urdu to English in prose, has also been instrumental in keeping my love for this language alive.
From this initial interest and exposure to the language, to actually learning the Urdu script was my small way of coming closer to the language – of owning a piece of it, of making it personal. Firoz Sir, our Urdu professor, affirmed my love in this poetic language and infused joy into the process of learning Urdu, by introducing us to new couplets, poets and words in the classroom that has brought me a little closer to the language.
This blog is a small attempt to bring likeminded people who share a love for this language or even a remote interest in it, to become an Urduwallah.